Prison Survival Guide: Prison FAQs

by Aaron Delgado
October 24th, 2018

Unfortunately, there are some cases where even the most skilled criminal defense attorney cannot save someone from a guilty verdict. Compared to other states, and even other countries, Florida has very high incarceration rates. This number was stressed by The Florida Times-Union in August when they referenced the “96,294 inmates in Florida’s prisons, and another 54,623 people… in county jails on any given day” this summer.

If you or a loved one are about to be convicted of a crime or have already received a sentence and are facing time in prison, there is a lot you will need to know to survive going to prison in Florida. This part of our guide for surviving prison in Florida will cover FAQs about life in a Florida state prison.

What Can I Bring to Prison?

You can only have a limited amount of personal property in prison as it has to fit in your storage space. If you have too many items and difficulty making it all fit, formerly approved items may be considered contraband and be confiscated. Additionally, most items have specific quantity restrictions, even stamps.

In many cases, unless you want to bring photos of your loved ones, writing implements, approved books, or something else that you will need, the safest bet is to leave it at home or call the facility you have been assigned to and ask if the specific item is allowed.

Can You Have a Cell Phone in Prison?

No. You can make a request to use the phone in the prison, and if that request is approved, you have to pay a fee to dial out. However, you will only be allowed to call people on an approved list of phone numbers, so if you are going to prison, you need to make sure you have the phone numbers of your loved ones before you want to call them.

Do I Need Money in Prison?

In short, yes, and if you get a receipt, you need to keep it at least as long as you have the item.

While you will be properly fed, there are a number of other things you can buy in prison. Florida state prisons have an Inmate Bank, which will hold all the money that has been deposited under your name and any money you entered the prison with.

In Florida, a prison commissary is referred to as a canteen. Some items are different for male and female inmates. The availability prices of items at the canteen are subject to change. In general, you can buy the following things in prison:

  • Snacks
  • Meals
  • Drinks
  • Health Aids - such as cough drops, multivitamins, or pain relievers
  • Toiletries
  • Miscellaneous Items - such as pens, pencils, paper, envelopes, stamps, playing cards, sunglasses, flip flops, or even a combination lock

How Do I Send Money to an Inmate?

Prisons in Florida have several methods to accept money for an inmate:

  • JPay - This is a way to send money to an inmate online.
  • Toll-Free Phone Number - You can call 800-574-5729, the JPay toll-free number, 24/7 to send an inmate money via your credit card.
  • Money Orders
  • Cash via MoneyGram

In some cases, the process for depositing money to an inmate via cash or money orders will vary. Before sending money orders or cash to an inmate, please verify the process for depositing money with the exact facility they are in.

Can Inmates Use the Internet?

Sort of.

In addition to the canteen, Florida prisons recently changed their rules about media players. Now, instead of an MP3 player that can store music purchased through the facility, JPay is offering tablets that you can purchase for your loved one to use in prison. With these tablets, they can access:

  • Educational Content
  • Movies
  • eBooks
  • Audio Books
  • Music
  • News
  • Video Grams
  • Secure Email

As with most things in prison, every individual piece of music, email, literature, etc. that can be accessed via the tablet will have its own additional fee.

Can I Email Someone in Prison?

If you want to email someone and you are in prison, you are not allowed to initiate communication. Your family or friend must have your department of corrections number and send the first email to you. Please keep in mind that these emails will be monitored by the Florida Department of Corrections, so you will want to refrain from including any content that may result in having your email privileges revoked.

Is Visitation a Right?

No, visitation is considered a privilege for inmates. If you are accused of bad behavior in prison or another issue arises, even one involving your visitor, it is possible that privilege will be taken away on a temporary or permanent basis. While it may be difficult at times, it is important to remain on your best behavior so your loved ones can visit you.

Florida Prison Guidelines

For more information about surviving prison in Florida, check out the Florida Department of Corrections’ Inmate Orientation Handbook.